Saturday, August 24

The heart and soul of Gaucho volleyball


The heart and soul of Gaucho volleyball

Despite adversities,

Collins leads UCSB

against Bruins tonight

By Eric Branch

Daily Bruin Staff

Please excuse UC Santa Barbara outside hitter Heather Collins if
she is not intimidated about facing the third-ranked UCLA women’s
volleyball team tonight in Pauley Pavilion.

You see, after dealing with a serious heart condition, playing
through matches with impacted teeth, violent cramps, chicken pox
and a severe case of the flu, not much fazes the senior from
Poway.

"Heather is a tremendous competitor," UCSB head coach Kathy
Gregory said. "She has always had a remarkable ability to play
hurt."

The extensive Collins medical file began at birth. Collins was
diagnosed with a serious genetic heart condition known as
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW). While a normal heart rate is
70 beats per minute, a WPW heart can beat up to 300 beats per
minute during an attack.

The condition remained mild until she began her freshman year at
UCSB. The stress of going to college resulted in Collins
experiencing three or four attacks in three weeks. She decided to
undergo "minor" surgery to correct the problem, and quickly found
out that minor surgery is when it happens to another person.

"At first I was told the surgery wasn’t that big a deal,"
Collins said. "But then the doctors told me they were going to wake
me up during the surgery to make sure I was OK, I was just thinking
‘what are you talking about?’."

The doctors did wake up Collins during the surgery and the
"minor" surgery became nightmarish.

"When they woke me up the catheter in my arm was killing me,"
Collins said. "I told them, ‘I’m wide awake right now, like I’m not
even remotely out of it.’ ‘The painkillers didn’t work and then the
doctors starting scaring me because I could hear everything they
were saying."

Despite the harrowing experience, Collins missed a mere three
matches and went on to be named to the Big-West All-Freshman
Team.

"I just wanted to come back and play," Collins said. "When I
first starting playing again it used to pop in my mind on and off
the court. But now it doesn’t bother me anymore."

Since the surgery, Collins has endured the first round of the
NCAA playoffs against Minnesota when she got violent cramps in both
of her calves and ended the match playing defense on her tiptoes.
Another famous Collins war story is the time she played in a
tournament against Arizona State with a severe oral infection.

"She had her wisdom teeth impacted and her mouth was swollen
about five times her normal size," Gregory said. "All their fans
were yelling at her and calling her a chipmunk."

Collins was so unfazed by the pain and the heckling that she set
a single match tournament record with 30 digs and led in kills
while being named to the all-tournament team.

However, despite the heroics, Collins is more than a Purple
Heart recipient. She also happens to be a 1993 Volleyball Monthly
All-American. Currently, she leads the seventh-ranked Gauchos in
kills per game, digs and service aces.

"She is the best all-around hitter I’ve coached," Gregory said.
"She can block, hit and set. She has all the skills."

Collins has attained her status despite possessing less than
ideal measurements for an outside hitter. She stands a mere 5-11,
dwarfish for volleyball these days.

"She’s real thin and not real tall so you don’t look at her as
being a real offensive threat," Gregory said. "However she has
accomplished much more than what people predicted for her as a
recruit."

In spite of her many accomplishments, Collins realizes that her
size can limit her on the court.

"I see all these other players who are just huge and can hammer
the ball," Collins said. "I look at them and I’m like, ‘God, I wish
I could do that.’ I’m just not as big or wide as some other
players."

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